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Cyber help for health care workers

New program teaches health care on line

Terry Halifax
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Aug 30/02) - A new type of distance learning offered through Aurora College will help ease the crunch on home care in the Beaufort Delta.

The home and community support worker program will be offered online to 13 communities from Deline to Holman Island.

The program is an entry-level health-care program that offers practical training at the Inuvik Campus, but the technical work will be done via the Internet.

Bernie Sheehan, distance education and technology co-ordinator for Aurora College's head office in Fort Smith, was in Inuvik last week to train a new instructor in the technology.

Sheehan says while the college has offered the program for some time, it's always meant that students would have to leave their communities to take the course.

"The program was offered at other campuses in other areas of the territories, but it was never offered as an online program before," Sheehan said.

The course is a one-year, 480-hour certificate program done in three modules.

Students can work any hours they please, but there is a time limit.

"They can go in and do the courses whenever they want, but there are time limits on when they have to have certain portions of the courses completed," he said.

The Web site includes discussion boards where the students can go in and post comments based on a topic initiated by the instructor.

"That keeps them interacting with each other, plus the adult educators in the communities will act as facilitators," he said.

"If the students run into any technical problems, there is a trained facilitator in the community that can help them."

Students from 13 communities will be taking part in the online courses.

One group started in April and the second entry starts in September for the practical training. Sheehan said the online portion will begin in January.

Instructor Susan Miller said the program is a unique partnership with Health and Social Services and the college.

"The workers are hired for the position and then they are trained through the college," Miller said.

The home-care workers are under the supervision of the community health nurse.

Each client is given an assessment, where their individual needs are determined and the home care workers supply the services otherwise not offered.

"The purpose of the care is to fill the gaps, because we are trying to encourage the client's independence as much as possible," she said.

The care may just be basic personal needs, like bathing and dressing for the day, but she says the care does not include housework outside of general tidying up.

Nine students will begin in January but she says more may be enroled before then.

The online distance education is something the college may be doing more work with, Sheehan says.

"It is definitely a way the college is moving in various programs," Sheehan said.

"Some programs don't always fit with distance learning, but there are some that really work well."

The certificate in adult education was previously offered through distance learning, but will be offered online in September.